In our last broadcast, we discussed the difficulty in ever understanding why Mortarion made the choices he did during the dying days of the Great Crusade. That thought has followed us here. Are we really fated to be forever ignorant of the Primarch's motivations? Records of Mortarion's own words are sparse and contradictory, but is that all we can rely upon? Might we not learn more of the man himself by observing those who surrounded him, like a Navigator might recognise a planetary system from the Warp eddies that flow around its border?
Consider then Ignatius Grulgor. The furtive and taciturn nature of his Legion notwithstanding, this is not a man whose dissatisfaction is difficult to discern, nor his grievances difficult to place. Indeed, it's entirely possible that the sum total of his thinking when choosing his Primarch over his Emperor was that the former option would annoy Garro and his fellow Terrans. It has always been a curious fact of human nature that our instinct is always to hurt our enemies rather than to help ourselves.
So what is it about the Terrans that makes them so unbearable to Grulgor? He himself references their arrogance, which is surely part of the answer. It's perhaps not even all that difficult to sympathise, either. The entirety of the Great Crusade has after all been an exercise in the tribes of Terra expanding out across the human galaxy and informing them "You do things like us now". How can that be anything other than arrogant? What other conclusion can we draw from an Emperor who stamps out religion for believing something lies beyond science when he himself had encountered daemons his awesome intellect could not explain? Even the map of the newly forged galaxy gives too much weight to the Emperor and to Terra; what kind of society divides the galaxy into segments according to the compass points emanating from a comparatively remote system in one spiral arm? One might as well rename Ultima Segmentum as "basically the galaxy".
The dominance of Terra makes no more sense culturally than it does spatially. Even were we to believe that the Emperor's Light represents the ultimate pinnacle of human society ever to grace Terra - an assertion we leave uncontested for reasons of time, not for lack of objections - it is a society born of and thus tailored to that world. There is no reason to believe and many reasons to refute the idea that the resultant approach is one that can be adapted for literally any one of the two million human worlds recorded during the Great Crusade. What could possibly hope to work as well on a hive world like Necromunda as on a feral planet like Attila? A death-world like Catachan? A hollow planet orbiting a singing star like Herrelstein? Yes, the Crusade by and large made only minimal changes to the worlds they annexed (minimal beyond whatever damage was done in acquiring that world, of course), but this was clearly done as a matter of pragmatism and not principle. The message from Terra was "You will be allowed to keep your cultures, for now at least", not "Your cultures are worthy of keeping".
This would be hard for those from any world beyond the solar system to accept, but for those from Barbarus it must have seemed arrogant to the point of madness. What strange scent in the sweet air of Terra had addled the Emperor's wits to the point he believed his followers could match those who choked down the poisons of Barbarus? At what point during his subjugation of the weakling Terra tribes did the Emperor conclude his feats were impressive enough to match defeating the alien slavers that teemed in the corrosive clouds of Mortarion's birthplace? How could a man from so soft and comfortable a world as Terra understand the Thorn Garden, or the drinking of the poisons, or any ofther facet of the mighty Death Guard?
It is here that we return from Ignatius Grulgor to his Primarch. What scraps have been gleaned of Mortarion's motives suggests Horus turned him by arguing the galaxy was entering a new age, an age which would require stronger leadership than the Emperor could offer. And who was more likely than a scion of Barbarus to believe that a resurgence of humanity taking place on its ancestral homeworld was simple coincidence rather than providence, and that in the final analysis, the greatest achievement of the people of Terra, both past and present, was simply to reach worlds like Barbarus, where the real work could begin.
It's no surprise that the son should turn out so like the father, naturally. This whole line of logic is predicated on that tendency. The Emperor to Mortarion to Grulgor: rotting apples falling from rotting trees. And in this particular way, Mortarion was perhaps more like his father than was any of his brothers, both so rooted in their homes they had no interest in any alternative approach. But this just makes the pair an extreme case of a common failure of comprehension. Mankind's strength has always lain in its diversity. Humanity can be united, but it cannot be homogenised. There is no one way, and certainly no one right way. The Emperor forgot that. Mortarion forgot that too, and in doing so murdered one third of his Legion and doomed the rest.
Still, if Mortarion's aim really was to demonstrate just how much his Legion could endure and survive, give him this much: he got his chance.
(This will be a short entry, since the majority of this chapter provides a different perspective to events already covered.)
Have you gotten any closer to understanding why and when Mortarion decided it was time to dial up the evil?
Did Mortarion offer the Emperor a poisoned cup and get knocked back?
I don't think so. I don't figure the Emperor as someone who'd turn down a ridiculously pointless macho challenge.
There seems to be big fractures in the Legion because of all this. They don't seem to get on, the people from Terra and the people from... the other place.
Really? Not even a vague idea?
Barbarus. You had a point, I believe?
I'm wondering if the Terran Astartes are there to keep the Barbarus ones in line. Make sure they stay loyal to the Emperor.
S'possible. Certainly if that was the Emperor's plan that'd be a good way to go about it. Or, y'know, it would be if it didn't enrage two thirds of the Legion.
But no, is the answer to your question. I can't figure Mortarion out. The best I can do is that maybe he's playing both sides against the middle? Though you seem to be making Mortarion out to be too much of an out-and-out villain for that to work.
Hey, if you slaughter a third of your men for the sake of a power-play you're an evil arsehole, whether you've been nipping at the Kool-Aid or not.
The only other alternative is that the whole thing is just one more endurance test. Make them crawl through thorn gardens, make them drink poison, make them survive the melty-face virus.
Yeah, one of those things doesn't sound like the others. Still, it's the kind of ultra-pragmatic approach that I can see appealing to Mortarion.
Exactly. The first Astartes clinical trial.
Clinical trial? What's the intervention here?
Mortarion's special juice.
Um... that's a great band name, but probably not something NIHR are going to fund. You know what sticklers for ethics the Research for Patient Benefit stream are.
This is Research for Astartes Benefit.
Yes, because nothing benefits people like feeding them poison to see if it stops them dissolving upon contact with a virus you yourself have infected them with.
But if anyone survives, they could head down with virus bombs and make sure they get planted in the right place.
Well sure, but that "if" is big enough to sail a Battle Barge through. I mean, if we could find people who can survive nuclear bombs we could do away with nuclear missiles. You know, if these people also had superhuman strength and could teleport. Astartes, is what I'm saying.
On a similar topic, does Ignatius Grulgor have anything approaching a point regarding Garro? How much of the Heresy just comes down to two groups of Astartes who just don't like where the other half came from?
Grulgor's not a very neutral name, is it? Not hard to figure out which side someone called that is likely to take.
Maybe it's like "Cecil" on Barbarus, though. Besides, whatever his name, he's either right about Terrans or he isn't.
That's pretty racist; labelling everyone from Terra like they're the same.
Hey, it's wasn't my idea that like every single Astartes is white.
I suppose the fact that they've spent so much more time around the Emperor than the Barbarus lot have could have made them arrogant, like the Emperor's Children. I mean Loken, Garro, Vipus. I suppose they are all of a type, aren't they?
Obviously a great deal of this chapter involves events we've already seen. How much of a difference does it make for us to be seeing things through Garro's eyes, and via Swallow's prose?
Hard to tell, really.
Struggling to see the subtle differences?
Struggling to remember the last book.
I did notice how Garro came across as naive here, though. Much like Loken, actually, though the two seem pretty much interchangeable anyway.
Naive in what sense?
He swallowed Mortarion's line about the remembrancers very quickly, even though it makes no sense. If the Astartes were any good at keeping records, you'd never need the remembrancers along at all.
I suppose it depends whether you'd rather watch Star Trek or just read a transcript of Picard's log. "Horus entered the room. Horus is good. Horus shouted at us. We were sad."
I think that-
"Oh no a virus has eaten my face".
I think that Captain Picard is rather more dry and understated than that.
All the more reason the Astartes need someone to write their logs for them. Or, you know, set them to a jaunty tune.
Is that really all the remembrancers are bringing to the table? What was the point?
To stir those back home into a patriotic frenzy. To present the Astartes as noble warriors rather than the deranged space murderers they really were. If it helps, think of them as 31st millennium Jessie Popes with spaceships and drinking problems.